Amazing to think it has been 15 years since M's last relevant football win over the Bucks.
Such a unique season looking back with the Mo Clarett mess over the summer, the defeat of a ranked Washington team in the opener that immediately restored the feel-good sentiment of the 2002 championship, the SDSU struggle, the wild NC State 3-OT survival, and a 5-0 start (with a win against a very decent BG team that would finish the season ranked) before the Camp Randall monsoon that showcased how badly the running game had regressed. The Bucks bounced back with 3 wins over top 15 competition (as well as a thrilling 21-20 escape in Happy Valley), defeating no. 9 Iowa, no. 14 MSU, and no. 10 Purdue in OT.
Then came Michigan Week. The 100th Game, College Gameday, a top 5 AP poll showdown, the largest crowd in college football history - and a shot at a first-ever back-to-back NC opportunity with OSU sitting at no. 2 in the BCS poll. Walking out of that hole in Ann Arbor I remember feeling disgusted like any Buckeye fan would after a loss to TTUN. It stung. But it wasn't close to Biakabatuka bad, Shawn Springs slip bad, or watching Woodson do it all bad. Maybe it was the Wisconsin loss, maybe it was the realization that Lydell Ross and the running game was a far cry from what #13 was the year before, maybe it was the feeling that the streak of luck that had followed the Buckeyes in their comebacks the last 20-some games had to end - whatever it was though, that 2003 L just didn't hurt like 1993, 1995, 1996, even 1997. I get it - we weren't rolling through a perfect season and we were no longer desperate fans awaiting the first NC since 1968/1970. But still... a win that day would have left OSU with a date with OU in a Sugar Bowl scenario I think the Bucks very well could have won. Maybe it was just that underlying mentality at that time that Nat'l Champions should be undefeated and the Bucks were already carrying the blemish of the Wisconsin loss, but it surprises me looking back that we don't carry more "what-if's" with that game. Had Fox picked that early INT opportunity, had Will Smith not been held as he zero'd in on a blindside hit on Navarre deep in Mich territory that might have caused a critical fumble, or had the Bucks recovered that late muffed punt on Michigan's 12, down only a TD and we could be looking back on a wild two-year run across 2002 and 2003 with two crystal footballs.